Archive for the ‘Sporting Scene’ Category

Phoenix: Republic sells small Diamondbacks stake

November 19, 2008

Gannett’s company-wide garage sale continues in full swing: The Arizona Republic has sold its 1% stake in the Arizona Diamondbacks pro baseball team, ending a relationship that began when the paper’s corporate parent provided seed capital establishing the team 10 years ago. Financial terms, including the sale price, were not disclosed.

The Republic initially made a $5 million investment and two subsequent $1 million cash calls early on to help with the team’s “financial shortcomings,” the paper said in a story reporting the sale. That $7 million stake was worth just more than 1% of the team. Gannett bought the Republic, plus The Indianapolis Star and three other dailies in Indiana and one daily in Louisiana from the Pulliam family in 2000 for $2.6 billion in cash.

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Chatter: Mixed reviews for new sports network

October 6, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: Gannett’s experiment with a new, live high-school sports webcasting network called Gannett Grid, beamed on the Mogulus video service.

“I love the idea of doing live video,” said Anonymous@1:13 a.m. “The problem is that many newspapers want to do it at a much lower quality than the TV competition, and about the same quality as a motivated Joe Six-pack could do.”

Anonymous@1:29 p.m. wondered whether there’s demand for the service: “Who would watch this? If you’re interested in high school sports, it’s for one reason: your kid is playing. If your kid is playing, you’re already there. So, who? College recruiters? The big untapped grandparent market? Pedophiles?”

Don’t rush to judge Grid prematurely, said Anonymous@1:49 p.m. “What they’re doing right now with Mogulus is an experiment, and not much more. Yes, some are out there with low-budget cameras and weak connections, but that will change as we learn more about the process. Imagine 50 games in your area broadcast in HD with Gannett branded logos watermarked over each video, broadcast in Gannett templates — without Gannett spending a dollar on a camera or additional manpower. That’s the dream.”

Join the debate, in the original post. Or start a new one in today’s Real Time Comments.

New sports network tests webcasting possibilities

October 5, 2008

[Tampa’s Freedom High was one of last night’s games]

Extending its live webcasting experiments, Gannett has launched a new high school sports network, featuring six or more games from across the country beamed on the Mogulus video service. The new Gannett Grid channel is a joint production of the broadcasting division plus newspapers including USA Today, says Poynter Online’s Al Tompkins; he interviewed Kerry Oslund, the broadcasting division’s vice president for new media.

The Grid uses new technologies that make the show cheaper and easier to produce: laptops, aircard connectivity — plus Mogulus, a technology company in which Gannett invested a reported $10 million in July. One of last night’s games, for example, featured Freedom High School in Tampa, Fla., where Gannett owns WTSP-TV.

The fledgling network got a trial run last month, when GCI used it to broadcast live feeds of Hurricane Gustav’s landfall in Louisiana. More recently, USAT used Mogulus to webcast Thursday’s vice presidential debates. My initial impression of the Grid: I had trouble understanding who was playing, because the on-screen graphics are pretty weak.

Part of ‘one Gannett’ plan
The Grid is a proving ground for live webcasting; Oslund portrayed it as part of the “one Gannett” strategy, where worksites produce information and sell advertising in a seamless nationwide network. Grid producers want to know what worked — and what didn’t work, presumably to avoid some of the big problems its had with the HighSchoolSports.net game score publishing system this season.

“This is just one of many ‘one Gannett’ prototypes in development,” Oslund told Tompkins. “We will refine it, build an improved version and when we’re ready, we’ll offer a bulletproof product we can distribute more broadly. All the while, we will be checking in with our customers, adding layers of marketing and promotion and growing audiences. We’ll succeed fast or fail fast.”

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Reader: HighSchoolSports.net is a ‘total debacle’

September 14, 2008

Regarding continuing problems with one of Gannett’s digital portfolio companies, HighSchoolSports.net, a reader says in a comment: “Now that we’ve just finished another weekend of the high school football season, is there any improvement in the HighSchoolSports.Net debacle? Last night and the night before, are papers getting their scores for online and print? Are photos and videos uploaded to BleachersTV getting through? Are the locally sold ad campaigns running on HSS yet? Over the last two nights, did HSS get any better at responding to support requests from schools and newspapers?”

The comment continues: “Does Gannett Digital realize what a total debacle HSS has been? If so, their communication to markets doesn’t make it clear that they do and that they realize they and HSS dropped the ball. This further erodes the waning credibility of a lot of people at Gannett Digital.
Although the failings are on HSS’s part, what accountability is there for those at Gannett Digital ultimately responsible for this?”

Join the debate, in the original post.

Tips: Trouble for GCI and HighSchoolSports.net?

September 6, 2008

[Friday night lights: Carmel High School players celebrate victory last night over Center Grove High in Greenwood, Ind.]

Gannett bought a controlling stake in HighSchoolSports.net in October 2007, adding the Ohio company to its small portfolio of technology start-ups in hopes they will generate more digital revenue. The company and its corporate parent — Schedule Star LLC — target high school coaches, students and their families, providing game schedules and related information.

But nearly a year later, readers tell me the relationship between Gannett and Schedule Star has gotten tense. At least one group of newspapers has been chastised for not using all of HighSchoolSports’ features, a reader told me late last month. Thursday, another reader said: “I heard that Gannett and HighSchoolSports had some sort of falling-out. Does anyone know?”

A third reader ventured an answer. “My understanding (not being in the sports dept.) is that, after working on HighSchoolSports for the last 6 weeks or so, everything was still so f’ed up that Corporate decided to abandon it,” the reader wrote. “And now that PrepsFactory is no longer supported either, our sports guys are back to typing agate by hand over the phone. What a joy. Jim, can you dig up any more dirt on this? Seems like quite a screw-up.”

All sports editors, ad-sales and IT folks: What’s going on with HighSchoolSports.net? Have you used it? Are you having problems? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


Other digital deals

  • Gannett buys control of CareerBuilder; what’s next?
  • Mogulus video deal said worth $10 million
  • GCI buys out ShopLocal.com
  • Company said investing $8 million in Cozi

[Photo: Sam Riche, The Indianapolis Star]

Olympics ’08: Lopresti is ‘face and voice of Gannett’

August 25, 2008

[Closing ceremony: Fireworks light up “Bird’s Nest” stadium]

Last of a series by Gannett Blog Olympics news analyst Ed Hutcheson, a pen name for one of my long-time readers. An employee at a GCI paper, Ed filed dispatches about the Summer Games, which ended yesterday with the closing ceremonies. Back to you, Ed — and thanks for your insight!

Mike Lopresti, the national sports columnist for Gannett News Service, has been the face and the voice of Gannett at the Beijing Olympics. Lopresti isn’t for everyone. His understated Midwest everyman’s persona may not play well in other parts of the country. His style of writing, with its often distinctive cadence, sometimes seems overdramatic.

In Beijing, Lopresti (left, reporting at Tiananmen Square) looked past the scores, past the U.S. teams, even past sports itself, to find the stories within. As he often has at America’s biggest sporting events over the past 25 years, Lopresti rises to the occasion.

Consider Thursday’s column on Becky Hammon, an American playing on the Russian basketball team. Lopresti puts today’s Olympics into perspective for the folks back home:

“Her dilemma is the Olympian dilemma now, where borders are not worth the ink it takes to print them on a map. Where the republic of Georgia strikes back at the Russian invasion with imported Brazilians in beach volleyball. . . . Where many table tennis competitions come down to whoever has the best former Chinese player. And where an American woman, with no grandmother back in Moscow or any other family lineage, plays for the Russians because they need a guard and are willing to fast-track a passport for her. Plus get her a nice contract on a Russian club team. The Olympics are now like major league baseball. They have gone free agency.”

How did Lopresti know about Brazilians as Georgians facing Russians? He was there: He wrote about it Aug. 13, with the Russian invasion of Georgia as the backdrop.

How did Lopresti know about China’s dominance of table tennis? He was there: He wrote about it Aug. 18, comparing it to the Super Bowl but also noting that “Olympic players have to chase down their errant balls, just like we do in the basement.”

Of course, Lopresti writes about the biggest U.S. names — swimmer Michael Phelps, gymnast Alicia Sacramone, soccer goalie Hope Solo and the men’s basketball team. But he also found an Iraqi sprinter on Aug. 11: “Back home in Iraq, where the athletes have died like everyone else, there are two running tracks Dana Abdul-Razak can use to make herself a sprinter. One requires ignoring the scars from the mortar shells. The other is two hours away. This is the route a woman must take, dashing through a war to get to the Olympics.”

Visiting Tiananmen Square
Lopresti took his own route to the truth in Beijing, strolling through its repressive past on his way to these Olympics. Even before the Games opened, Lopresti went to Tiananmen Square, chatting up the locals to get a sense of life in China today, but asking what many wonder: What do you know of “the Tank Man,” the solitary protester who became the symbol of the crushed 1989 rebellion?

“It happened here?” says one.

“No one knows about that,” says another.

Watch the video that accompanies that remarkable column.

[Photos: closing ceremony, Greg Baker, Associated Press; Russian beach volleyball player Natalia Uryadova, right, hugs Cristine Santanna of Georgia, Reuters; Lopresti, screenshot from GNS video; lone Tiananmen protester, Jeff Widener, AP]

Seeing Olympics ’08 through photographers’ eyes

August 23, 2008

[Race is on: Appleton’s Dan Powers, lower right, transmits photos]

Part of a series of posts by Gannett Blog Olympics news analyst Ed Hutcheson, a pen name for one of my long-time readers. Ed, an employee at a GCI paper, will file occasional dispatches about Summer Games coverage. Over to you, Ed!

The images from the Beijing Olympics by Gannetts team of photographers have been terrific. Again, here’s the plan: Deliver coverage of hometown athletes to their newspapers, then let the Associated Press do the rest. Most of the dozen or so photographers are from USA Today, along with Matt Detrich of Indianapolis and Jeff Swinger from Cincinnati. Two of their colleagues are fine shooters from community papers, including The Post-Crescent (left) in Appleton, Wis.

Like his reporting counterparts, Greg Pearson of the The Times of Shreveport, La., has been blogging from Beijing in addition to his assignments. Monday’s post will dash any notion of the Olympics as a glamorous gig. “The past few days have been EXTREMELY busy. I’m now getting between 3-5 hours of sleep a night. I’m ok for now, but I know that when I get home I’ll probably sleep for an entire day! One day I had absolutely no time to eat anything at all. I hadnt showered for two days. My last break in shooting was spent lying on a bed for 30 minutes and taking a quick shower. My clothes need to be washed again. I’ve had no time for shopping for souvenirs for the wife and kid. I bought some postcards, but the problem there is I need to find time to write something down and then mail them! I’m falling asleep on short bus rides.”

I liked Thursday’s gallery from the freestyle wrestling venue (left). Pearson, like the others on the Gannett coverage team, is not shooting just the Americans. The U.S. is in it, but freestyle wrestling is dominated by Eastern Europeans.

Dan Powers of the Post-Crescent also is blogging from Beijing. His paper’s use of Blogger software makes it easier to view a photo blog than the Pluck software so widely used now. Powers’ blog posts are mostly about the technical and logistical aspects of getting just the right shots at the Olympics. That’s not for everyone, but it’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes read — especially as he pursues Michael Phelps at the swimming venue — if you’re at all interested in photography.

I liked Powers’ Aug. 10 gallery from the fencing venue. He’d never covered fencing, and you couldnt tell. He got this shot (above) of U.S. gold medalist Mariel Zagunis after her victory, and then this: “After transmitting all of my photographs and packing up my gear, I ended up sharing a elevator ride with a nice young lady and her two companions. The companions I believe were PR folks. But the young lady just happened to be the gold medal winner, Mariel Zagunis. And as we headed down to the first floor, she pulled out the gold and let me hold it for just a second (she never let go of it . . . I think I got about three fingers on it). I thought that was pretty cool.”

[Image: today’s Post-Crescent, Newseum]

Olympics-sized coverage from two smaller papers

August 20, 2008

Part of a series of posts by Gannett Blog Olympics news analyst Ed Hutcheson, a pen name for one of my long-time readers. Ed, an employee at a GCI paper, will file occasional dispatches about Summer Games coverage. It’s all yours, Ed!

Updated at 10:31 a.m. ET. The Beijing Olympics are more than a week old, and so far, so good for Gannett’s coverage team. GCI’s plan is simple: Deliver coverage of hometown athletes to their newspapers, then complement it with broader coverage. Let the Associated Press do the rest. It seems to be working.

A byline count suggests a team of at least 16 reporters: 10 from metro and community papers, five from USA Today, plus Gannett News Service columnist Mike Lopresti. If two staffers from the smallest papers are any indication, Gannett and those hometown papers are getting their money’s worth.

Kevin Tresolini, a sports writer at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., covered at least seven sports, including swimming, field hockey, soccer and tennis, in his first week.

Tresolini describes the job on his blog from Beijing: “Most of what I write (is) Gannett-paper specific — a story about the wrestler for the Shreveport, La., paper, the weight-lifter for the Salem, Ore., paper, the women’s basketball player for the Nashville paper, the field hockey player for Cherry Hill, N.J.,” he says. “Wednesday at swimming, I popped out three different dispatches for three different papers on three different swimmers.”

Bob Berghaus, the sports editor at the Asheville Citizen-Times, covered softball, canoe/kayak, tennis, cycling, swimming and shooting in his first week. He’s also writing columns and blogging.

On his blog, Berghaus confesses that he went into a women’s restroom by mistake, ate some mystery meat, and passed out on his flight to China. On Friday, he wrote a column about how he tried to bend the rules at the swimming venue and didn’t get away with it.

Tresolini has blogged about dishes he has not eaten, spitting in public — and the smog.

Got a tip for Ed? Post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Images: yesterday’s front pages, Newseum]

Olympics ’08: Blog raps ‘self-indulgent’ Albom

August 13, 2008

Note: This debuts Olympics news analyst Ed Hutcheson, a pen name for one of Gannett Blog‘s more long-time readers. Ed, an employee at a certain GCI paper (I’m not tellin’), has agreed to file occasional dispatches about Summer Games coverage. Over to you, Ed!

The Big Lead sports blog calls out Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom (left) for writing self-indulgent columns from Beijing. In an item called “Mitch Albom’s Awful Olympic Columns,” the blog says:

“It isn’t about the athletes. Or the storylines. It’s about Mitch. All Mitch, all the time:

  • Aug. 8 — Read about why Mitch decided to go to Beijing.
  • Aug. 9 — Man, it’s tough to get a cab here! Want to hear about my hotel?
  • Aug. 9 — Mitch Albom goes shopping! Fashion and DVDs! Cheap!
  • Aug. 10 — Let’s mock the way a Chinese host speaks, and then tell readers about how crummy it is to get caught in a monsoon on the way to a basketball game.

“What a sad, sad decline,” the Big Lead says, “for a guy who, 15 years ago, was one of the best sports columnists in the country.”

However, a commenter adds: “To be fair, the Freep has sent two columnists over. (Michael) Rosenberg seems to be doing the heavy lifting on event and athlete drive columns. Albom would seem to be tasked with the ‘American in China’ and more human interest type pieces.”

Earlier: Please guest-post for Gannett Blog

And now, about my volunteers . . .
Sports analyst Ed is part of a growing cast of reader-volunteers who make this blog better. One reader (hi, Susan!) polices my responses to critics. Another (Tom!) feeds me the Daily News Summary. A guy in the Midwest tosses company documents over the transom. We wouldn’t know squat (hah!) about Poopgate, without my pal in New Jersey. And you-know-who-you-are-in-Texas inspires me with her grace.

And that’s just a sampling, Tara Connell. As always, gentle readers, please remember: There are 46,000 GCI employees — but just one of yours truly. I need all the help I can get.

Wanna be a volunteer copy editor? Know about Gannett’s photography and design? Contact me confidentially from a non-work computer via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Hot Off the Press: USA Today

August 8, 2008

This morning’s front page; click on the image for a bigger view. The nation’s sports-centric daily offers a Summer Olympics analysis today, as the opening ceremonies launch the biggest sports event of the year. “China will win the gold medal count at the Beijing Olympics, with 51 golds to the Unites States’ 43, while the USA is likely to retain a slight edge in the overall medal count, 104-97,” reporter Vicki Michaelis predicts. “If the predictions hold, it will mark the first time in 72 years that a country besides the USA or Soviet Union claims the most gold medals at a Summer Games.”

[Image: Newseum]